OAKLAND -- A 4-inch gas line that ruptured Tuesday morning in East Oakland sparked an underground fire that burned for more than three hours and prompted the evacuation of nearby homes.
No injuries were reported in the fire, which began near the intersection of Golf Links Road and Fontaine Street about 8:25 a.m. Flames could be seen coming up through cracks in the street for hours afterward.
Six homes in the immediate area were initially evacuated and other residents were told to shelter in place, officials said.
The line was capped by 11:40 a.m. and the shelter-in-place order was lifted shortly thereafter, fire officials said.
The fire occurred where PG&E has plastic and steel distribution pipelines, including a 4-inch steel line that is believed to have ruptured, the utility said. Two steel pipelines were laid in 1946 and 1965 while another plastic pipeline was laid in 1987, said PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord. They were last surveyed in April 2012, she said.
"I usually wake up to coffee, but this morning I woke up to a fire in my front yard," said 36-year-old James Gouig.
The flames burned Gouig's front lawn, and, as he fought the blaze with a garden hose, he realized it was not a typical fire. Flames were shooting up from the ground in straight lines in a pattern that reminded him of a tic-tac-toe box.
"It happened so fast I didn't know what it was," Gouig said. "I was freaking out, thinking this was another San Bruno incident."
Gouig was referring to the deadly natural gas explosion in San Bruno in 2010; like Tuesday's fire, that incident began in underground pipelines, though the pipes affected Tuesday were much smaller than the San Bruno line that ruptured. Eight people were killed and 38 homes destroyed in the San Bruno explosion and fire.
The gas main affected Tuesday was a distribution line that carries 40 to 50 pounds per square inch of gas, Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Lisa Baker said. The San Bruno explosion and fire involved a transmission line nearly 3 feet in diameter and carrying 300 pounds per square inch of gas, Chord said.
An investigation into what caused the fire was underway Tuesday and could take several days to complete, according to PG&E.
At least 20 EBMUD customers were without water since underground water lines were shut off as a precautionary measure, fire officials said.
Streets in the area, including Golf Links Road and Fontaine Drive, were closed while firefighters let the flames burn off. Fire crews had left the scene by 12:30 p.m.
Staff photographer Laura Oda contributed to this story.